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Stags' boss emphasises importance of clean sheets

18 August 2018

Stags’ boss David Flitcroft re-emphasised the need to keep a clean sheet, describing them as ‘the holy grail’, as his side had to settle for point in today’s 1-1 draw at home to Colchester.

Mansfield took the lead in the 81st minute through Craig Davies’ wonder strike after dominating large spells of the contest, but succumbed to a 95th minute equaliser by U’s midfielder Sammie Szmodics.

The manager says that the late goal has ‘floored’ him, and explained that it should have been an afternoon where his side took all three points.

“I’ve just watched the goal that’s ripped the heart out of us. It’s floored me,” he said. “Colchester have come here and shut up shop. It looks like it went straight in but I think Szmodics has got a touch.

“It doesn’t matter how much time has been put up, it’s not the referee’s fault. The way we’ve defended it isn’t good enough. We could’ve gone top of the league tonight if we get that last half a second right. That’s the fine margins between success and failure.

“I’ve just said to them [the players] that when I was a player I’d have done everything in my power not just to protect the clean sheet we had but to make sure that the goal from Craig Davies is the match-winning goal.

"I keep saying to the team that we’ll be good in possession, we’ll move the ball around the pitch well. But clean sheets are the holy grail. Clean sheets are what you win titles with."

David Flitcroft, manager

“I spent two minutes talking about an error that, if we get it right, and we make a better decision, we end up with a clean sheet which the boys should’ve earned and a wonder strike that should claim three points.

“We dominated every aspect of the game. I thought in the first-half we were a little bit slow in our play. We set out more of an aggressive strategy second-half.

“I’ve got some players who didn’t deserve to not be on the winning team today. I thought Ryan Sweeney was just on a different level. He was outstanding today.

“I’m bitterly disappointed for the supporters because we should be walking away with three points.

“I’ve told them after the game if five minutes or seven minutes goes up, we embrace it. You’re 1-0 up so you have something to protect. That’s the spirit that I want to try and grow and I’ll foster.

“I think maybe they got a little extra for Tyler Walker’s foul. It’s nothing to do with the referees. We’ve not won this game today because we’ve not defended our box properly.

“I keep saying to the team that we’ll be good in possession, we’ll move the ball around the pitch well. But clean sheets are the holy grail. Clean sheets are what you win titles with.

“Two weeks ago we really protected that clean sheet against Newport, but we’ve not done that today. We’ve not protected Craig Davies’ wonder goal that should’ve earned three points.”

The Stags’ boss went on to state his belief that his players put in a good ‘shift’ throughout the course of the match.

“Davo gave us presence up front. We were a little bit light. We just didn’t keep the ball well enough in the second-half. Davo gave us presence and then we got Danny [Rose] on who gave us more presence.

“We went for the game and put our three strikers on. We weren’t forceful enough in the first-half and we’ll work on that Monday. Shutting a game down and locking a game down is a key aspect of any outstanding team.

“[We have to] make sure that the press quality is high. When we get an opportunity to hurt a team, we have to take it. We have to be more precise.

“I don’t think the players can work any harder than what they’ve done. They put a right shift in and I’m sure the numbers will show it when we look back. If we get that lead we have to make sure we see the game out.

“We have to respect that going 1-0 up is absolutely king and you’ve got to protect that.”
Due to Matt Preston missing the game today through concussion, the manager took the time to provide the latest update on the defender’s situation.

“He [Preston] took a little turn on Thursday and had to go to A&E with the concussion that he got against Yeovil scoring the goal.

“He trained on Thursday and then we got a phone call at about 11 o’clock that he was at A&E. There’s an FA guideline and we’re working towards that now.

“[I was] gutted to not have Matty because he’s been a standout performer since he signed for the club. We’ll guide him back to fitness and make sure he has the support.”

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